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Thrive Therapy & Counseling provides high quality therapy to Highly Sensitive People and to kids, teens or adults struggling with anxiety, depression or self-esteem.

Turning up the volume

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This blog is written by a therapist in midtown Sacramento and focuses on the concerns and struggles of highly sensitive people (HSPs) and of kids, teens and adults struggling with depression, anxiety or just trying to figure out what they want for themselves.  There's help and hope through counseling and therapy!

Turning up the volume

Ivy Griffin

I LOVE this notion. And, it’s often so necessary for HSPs. We can struggle with our ability to state what we want and need in ways that others hear and respond to. Catch that? This is about helping other people understand and accurately respond to our requests (which—by the way—helps build secure attachment, but that’s an article for another day :)).

Take this conversation, for example:

“Do you want to get sushi for dinner?”

“Naw, I’m craving tacos. Let’s go to _____.”

“Oh.”

“Do you not want to do that?”

“No, I was really wanting sushi tonight.”

“Well, why didn’t you just say that?”

“I did.”

“No, you didn’t. You asked me what I wanted.”

My husband and I have had some version of this discussion probably 100 times. We’ve done this so much that he now jokes about the “Ivy” question. The joking is nice because we used to both end up frustrated. Until he pointed this out to me, I didn’t even realize my tendency! It was so natural and ingrained in me to not state what I wanted but to phrase everything as a question. Naturally, this way, the other person could disagree if they wanted to. But, the problem with this approach is that when the other disagreed I felt frustrated, like they didn’t even care what I want.

Cue this idea of turning up the volume.

If I can communicate more clearly and directly, I’m more likely to get what I want or to find a workable compromise. This means I don’t have to feel frustrated, overlooked or ignored—often by someone who cares and wouldn’t want me to feel that way at all.

As HSPs, we can be so gentle and thoughtful. The people in our lives often cherish this about us. We’re very considerate of others’ needs and don’t want to upset anyone or rock the boat. To others, the upside can be that we’re so easy to get along with, and they often feel heard, cared for and very appreciated. The downside—those who care about us may not even know what we want or need in any given moment because we don’t tell them!

So, always the question is, but what do we do?

  • The first step is recognizing when you do not communicate clearly. You might even need a loved one to point it out to you. (Thanks, husband!)
  • Then, look for patterns. Does this happen for you more around certain topics or situations? If so, acknowledge this and plan to be on the lookout in those settings.
  • If you’re not sure when it happens, notice your feelings instead. When do you start to feel frustrated or angry with others? When do you feel ignored, not heard or dismissed? Ask yourself what you said and how you expressed yourself. Is there something more you can do or say to be direct?
  • Focus on simple, straightforward communication. If you’re anything like me, you can get wordy. Or bury what you’re saying in multiple introductory phrases and descriptors. Get real simple here. I’m talking, subject—verb--object simple.  Most of the time, the subject is gonna be “I,” as in:

I want ______.

I need______.

I’d like ______.

I’d appreciate ______.

  • Practice coming up with these statements yourself for different situations. You can roll these around in your head for a while before you try using them. When you do try, it’s great to start with someone who knows you well and with a situation that’s not very risky. (Despite my sense of frustration, life’s gonna keep going on just fine if I don’t get my sushi for dinner.)
  • After you start getting the hang of it, you can add some more complexity to these statements.

I want _______ because _________. 

When you __________, I feel _________. Instead, I’d like for you to _____________.  

You can always revise and adapt and upgrade as you build this muscle. The key here is to state directly and clearly what you’re feeling/thinking/needing. Doing so is a wonderful way to turn up your volume and cut back on those times of feeling dismissed or ignored.

Feel free to drop me a line and let me know how it goes.

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By Ivy Griffin